Frieri A Useful Surprise

Padres were unsure of what they had





SAN DIEGO—His minor league numbers were good, bordering on great.

But until they called him to the major leagues in July, the Padres didn't know what they had in righthander Ernesto Frieri.

Signed out of Colombia in 2003, Frieri zoomed past a number of more touted prospects in the organization and earned a big league promotion to provide depth for the Padres bullpen.

A 1.43 ERA with 17 saves and a 49-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 38 innings at Triple-A Portland convinced the Padres that Frieri could help. And help he did.

When Mike Adams went down in mid-July, Padres manager Bud Black turned to Frieri in critical situations. The 24-year-old answered the call, finishing the season with a 1.71 ERA in 33 appearances. He had 41 strikeouts and 17 walks in 32 innings.

"Ernie has always had a quiet confidence," Black said. "I saw that a couple of years ago and when we used him in some spring training games. That's one reason I like bringing the minor league guys over to big league camp. When we need someone to help us, we have more than just numbers to look at."

Frieri spent two seasons in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League after signing. He came to the United States in 2005 and made a steady rise through the system.

"I got a little taste of the major leagues last season (appearing in two games in 2009)," Frieri said. "I got a chance to pitch in the spring, so I was comfortable when I got called up. I was able to fit in."

Black would like Frieri to cut down on his walked, but he liked the 41 strikeouts.

"Even in Triple-A, the walks were a little high," Black said. "But he's a low-hit, high-strikeout guy. Those two things tell you he has good stuff. The thing you really like is that Ernie is a homegrown guy, a product of our system. For us to be successful, we have to develop our own talent. Ernie's a good one, a guy I think can help us for a lot of years."

FATHER FIGURES

• Righthander Brad Brach, who had a California League-record 44 saves at high Class A Lake Elsinore, allowed just one hit over his first seven innings in the Arizona Fall League.

• The organization's two top second-base prospects—Andrew Parrino and Cole Figueroa—were batting .286 and .278 after nine games in the AFL.